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Excerpted from Please Understand Me II, by David Keirsey 

Copyrighted © 1998, all rights reserved

While Jung considered the distinction between extraversion (E) and introversion (I) as the most important of his dimensions of personality, I think of it as least useful in understanding people and predicting what they'll do. Indeed, in my view it borders on the trivial compared to S-N, and is much less useful than T-F and J-P. Presumably extreme extraverts and extreme introverts are easy to spot, and that may be the reason the Jungians and therefore the Myersians consider the concept to be so important.

Important or not, Myers's E-I scale is badly flawed because she inherited Jung's error of confusing extraversion with observation (S) and introversion with introspection (N). And so to make the E-I distinction useful at all, we must define the two concepts, not in terms of mental focus or interest, but in terms of social address or social attitude. Thus when someone is observed to be talkative and sociable (the so-called "extravert") he or she can be described as "expressive." In contrast, people who are more quiet and private (the so-called "introverts") can be described as "reserved." Interestingly, because Reserved persons tend to hold their fire verbally, they tend to listen carefully to what others say, while Expressive persons tend not to listen very well, so eager are they to tell others of what they have on their minds. So in general, the Expressive are quick to speak and slow to listen, while the Reserved are quick to listen and slow to speak.

Of course, everyone is expressive in some degree, but not in the same degree. Those who are more expressive appear more comfortable around groups of people than they are when alone. Thus they can also be thought of as socially gregarious or outgoing. On the other hand, those who are more reserved seem to be more comfortable when alone than when in a crowd. And thus they can be thought of as socially seclusive or retiring. Remember, however, that these distinctions are not clear cut: each individual surely varies from time to time in his or her desire to be expressive and in company or reserved and in seclusion.

A metaphor might shed light on this difference. Imagine that a person's energy is powered by batteries. Given this, then Expressive persons (ESTPs, ENFJs, etc.) appear to be energized, charged up, by contact with other people. Owing to the surge they get when in company, they are quick to approach others, even strangers, and talk to them, finding this an easy and pleasant thing to do, and something they don't want to do without. Such interaction apparently charges their batteries and makes them feel alive. Thus, when they leave a lively party at two o'clock in the morning, they might well be ready to go on to another one. Their batteries are almost overcharged, having received so much stimulation from the social interaction. In fact, quiet and seclusion actually exhaust the Expressive, and they report feelings of loneliness (or power drain) when they are not in contact with others. For example, if an Expressive person goes to a library to do research in the stacks, he or she may, after fifteen minutes or so, feel bored and tired, and have to exercise strong will-power to keep from taking a short brain break and striking up a conversation with the librarian.

On the other hand, Reserved persons (ISFJs, INTJs, etc.) can be said to draw energy from a different source. They prefer to pursue solitary activities, working quietly alone with their favored project or hobby, however simple or complicated it may be, and such isolated activities are what seem to charge their batteries. Indeed, the Reserved can remain only so long in contact with others before their energies are depleted. If required by their job, family, or social responsibilities to be expressive or outgoing -- to make a great interpersonal effort -- they are soon exhausted and need alone time in quiet places to rest and to restore their depleted energy. Thus, if Reserved persons go to a noisy cocktail party, after a short period of time -- say, half an hour -- they are ready to go home. For them, the party is over, their batteries are drained. This is not to say that the Reserved do not like to be around people. They enjoy socializing with others, but at large social gatherings or professional meetings they tend to seek out a quiet corner where they can chat with one or two other persons.

There is some social bias toward expressiveness in American social life, but Reserved persons have no reason to feel that there is anything wrong with them, and should be sure to provide adequately for their legitimate desire for quiet time to themselves.